New racing regulations and the introduction of new racing categories inspired a new era of racing machines for the 1980s. Rapidly evolving technology, CAD systems for design, and a greater understanding and appreciation of aerodynamics, underbody tunnels, rear diffusers, and Venturis brought about major changes in the sport. A number of racing constructors were birthed during this era, including Argo Racing Cars Ltd. The British-based company was founded by Swiss designer Jo Marquart and British mechanic Nick Jordan, and initially built a variety of open-wheel cars for various 'Formula' series including Formula three, Formula Super Vee, and Formula Atlantic. Later endeavors catered to the sports prototype categories for the World Sportscar Championship's C2 class and the North American IMSA GT Championship's IMSA Lights category. During the company's existence, lasting from 1983 through 1993, they built around 100 chassis including 7 examples of the JM16 and 19 of the JM19 sports prototype chassis.
A customer named Bill Alsup commissioned Argo to build a car to race at the Indianapolis 500. It was called the JM15 and wore a design by Jo Marquart. It had an aluminum honeycomb chassis with magnesium bulkheads and generous amounts of lightweight carbon fiber. The car missed the Indy 500 however and was not properly sorted until late April of 1983. The number 27 Argo JM15 with Ford power was driven by Bill Alsup at Cleveland, Michigan, Pocono, and Sanair during the 1984 season.
Using the lessons learned from the Argo JM15 project, the team constructed a sportscar for IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) competition called the JM16. It was designed by Marquart with assistance from Nigel Stroud. It was heavily based on a Royale car and this was proven through court proceedings which later resulted in the re-branding of several JM16s as Royale (Royale RP39 or RP40).
Approximately 19 examples of the Argo JM16 were eventually built with the first chassis being delivered to Jim Downing who raced it in the IMSA GTP series. Downing and co-driver John Maffucci were highly successful in the Camel Lights class winning numerous races through the 1985 to 1987 seasons.
The Argo JM19 that followed was based on the JM16 and during its production lifespan was built in various configurations including the 19B, 19C, and 19D. The Argo JM19 used an aluminum honeycomb monocoque, and suspension featuring outboard spring and damper setup. The bodywork was designed by Achim Storz and comprised of carbon-fiber composite material. The JM19 was mainly raced in Group C competition, with Downing being the primary customer. Engines included units from Zakspeed, Mazda, Buick, Ferrari, Chevrolet, Cosworth DFC, and a sole ex-Minardi Motori Moderni example. JM16 cars used Mazda, DFV, and Buick engines.
by Daniel Vaughan | Jun 2021